About the client
Arena.pl is one of the biggest e-commerce platforms in Poland – in 2020, the platform was ranked 20th in Forbes’ Polish e-commerce ranking.
Arena.pl offers e-commerce space to sellers-entrepreneurs – currently there are about 6 thousand shops registered, offering over 3 million new products in total. Each month the platform is visited by more than 400 thousand unique users, with 10 to 25 thousand users making a purchase. Since you can buy products from any sector at arena.pl, the traffic on the platform fluctuates depending on the season or changing shopping trends.
Apart from running an e-commerce platform, arena.pl also develops tools for salespeople, supporting e.g. analytics or promotional activities.
The person in charge of the platform’s technological development is Kamil Bednarek – IT Director. He’s supported in his efforts by, among others, Maciej Wachowski – IT Support Specialist, responsible for infrastructure administration and maintenance.
The cooperation between Arena.pl and FOTC started in 2017, with the primary focus on G Suite. Soon after, the scope of our partnership increased to include Google Cloud Platform.
We wanted to have a partner based in Poland – it’s better than having to contact Google directly. It also makes our cooperation more flexible, and it’s easier to settle accounts in the local currency. When considering both G Suite and Google Cloud Platform, we decided to work with FOTC – they are the leading Google partner in the Polish market.
Kamil Bednarek, IT Director at Arena.pl, saw an opportunity to improve the platform and increase the rate of its growth. It required technical refactoring and changes in the infrastructure.
On-premise solution – significant costs, low scalability
The Arena.pl platform used to be based on the company’s custom on-premise infrastructure solution. This involved certain difficulties in the following areas:
- cost of maintenance – IT specialists had to spend a lot of time not only on development but also on hardware maintenance; not to mention a fixed monthly fee paid even when the traffic was really low;
- scalability – increasing the platform’s bandwidth required planning, designing, and implementing the right mechanisms, which involved engaging developers in the process as well.
Technical debt blocking migration
The quick development of the platform led to a considerable technical debt. The debt hampered further growth and halted the complete migration of the platform to the cloud environment. Kamil and his IT team had to face challenges such as:
- choice of the strategy to pay off the technical debt, which would enable refactoring and rewriting the system at the same time without slowing down the platform’s development or the process of cloud migration,
- platform containerization – the existing technical debt hindered the transfer of apps to containers and the launch of the system in the cloud environment.
Unfamiliarity with the public cloud concept
The local IT team, used to on-premise infrastructures solutions, found cloud computing quite foreign. Kamil mentioned that many specialists weren’t even aware of Google Cloud Platform’s potential. This gave rise to certain concerns, and the team was not sure about the solution’s flexibility and user-friendliness (as promised by Google).
One of the biggest difficulties we came across was the unawareness of what Google Cloud Platform actually was and what it could offer. It was a technology we were totally unfamiliar with, one that we were getting used to gradually, testing the waters. But ain’t no mountain high enough, as they say – and this case was no different.
A decision was made to abandon the on-premise solution and switch completely over to a public cloud. The team, a bit apprehensive about the new solution, migrated services one by one, getting to know the hang of the cloud environment and the standards of infrastructure maintenance at the same time. The first step was to migrate the testing and development environments, followed by the migration of the production version. Each step brought more and more awareness of the public cloud’s potential, which translated into making increasingly better use of the available services.
At present, Arena.pl’s infrastructure is based on the multi-cloud model, combining Google Cloud Platform’s services with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure solutions.
Around 90% of our infrastructure is Google Cloud Platform. We pick the best solutions from each cloud and adapt them to our current projects and operations. An important thing is that the security of storage of data spread across different platforms always comes first.
Arena.pl utilizes GCP services offering e.g. virtual machines in the IaaS and PaaS models, enabling cloud storage and processing of data, BigData analytics, containerization, monitoring, and analysis of the system. Kamil highlights three main advantages of GCP over the on-premise solution his company had been using before. These include:
- Cloud SQL – a scalable database service which makes it easier to configure, store, and manage resources in a cloud environment; it offers an uninterrupted and stable access to data, also in a multi-cloud solution;
- Operations (previously: Stackdriver) – a portfolio of services designed to store, retain, and monitor logs; it enables the tracking of data exchanged between services in different cloud environments;
- Google Kubernetes Engine – a container-orchestration platform which enables easy, secure, and scalable migration of systems to newer technologies; according to Kamil, GKE is very handy in the process of paying off the technical debt and moving apps to containers.
Arena.pl’s IT team is already very much aware of the potential of cloud computing – and takes full advantage of this potential to improve the platform. FOTC acts as an intermediary between Arena.pl and Google – we support our client in organizational or formal matters, take part in negotiations with infrastructure service providers, and help in solving any potential problems with using Google Cloud Platform. We also make it possible for the client to settle accounts in their local currency.
We’ve chosen the simplest way to pay off our technical debt. We’re a bit at a crossroads between the old and the new system – some assets need to be rewritten from scratch, some need to be improved. Google Kubernetes Engine lets us keep the right balance in this aspect. It would be surely much more difficult to achieve if we had stuck with the on-premise solution. The possibilities offered by GCP in this case are invaluable.
Using GCP gives me and my entire team a sense of security and stability. We don’t have to bother ourselves with something we’ve already done. We create, test, and implement features, and return to a given feature only when it’s necessary to make changes resulting from e.g. certain business needs.
The advantages of switching to a cloud solution as reported by Arena.pl:
- internal costs of infrastructure maintenance reduced by 20-30% – our specialists, preoccupied so far with maintaining and managing machines, are now able to focus on development; the cloud-based infrastructure can be managed independently by developers,
- flexibility and scalability – unlike the earlier on-premise solution, the current cloud-based infrastructure adapts itself automatically to requirements and is always ready to handle sudden spikes in traffic,
- greater awareness and more control – the cloud solution has increased the level of app verification and facilitated error tracking and action logging, which has made the IT team’s work more comfortable,
- shorter TTM (time to market) – new implementations take significantly less time, which makes the development of the platform much faster,
- real business development support – so far, technology has often turned out to be a certain barrier to the fulfillment of business needs; now, thanks to the cloud solution, apps can be customized, changed, extended, and adjusted flexibly to the adopted development strategy.
The time to deploy is clearly shorter, and the developers say they find it more comfortable to work now. But the most important thing for us is that GCP has made technology no longer get in the way of business. Business is now able to flexibly change the requirements of particular apps without encountering resistance from IT administrators.
The IT Director stresses that the company’s development plan sees Arena.pl moving entirely to Google Cloud Platform.
Let me be frank. The multi-cloud model involves certain discomfort, resulting, for instance, from the need to use various client libraries or from the differences in the cloud architecture. When we were migrating Arena.pl, Google Cloud Platform did not yet have all the services we needed. And now they’re available, verified, and fully operational, that’s why we want to switch completely from AWS and Azure to GCP.